Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, is a condition in which chemicals in the urine crystallize and begin the process of forming stones. The function of the kidney is to filter blood and produce urine from body waste. Kidney stones form in the kidney but can appear in the urinary tract, the bladder or the ureters as well. When diagnosing kidney stones, the size of the stone does not matter as much as the location of the stone. If the stone is located in the kidney, there are generally no problems but if it exits the kidney and enters the ureter, the stone can obstruct the flow of urine, causing a blockage. The kidney will continue to produce urine and the excess pressure from behind the blocked ureter will cause the kidney to swell. The swelling is what causes pain to be felt when a kidney stone is present. The positive effect of this pressure is that this is the mechanism for which the kidney stone is able to be pushed through the ureter and into the bladder. Once in the bladder, the blockage in the ureter is gone and the pressure is relieved.
Management of Symptoms
It is not quite clear as to why kidney stones develop but there are several risk factors that may cause a person to be more susceptible to the stones. It seems that genetics may play a role because some people just seem more prone to higher levels of calcium in the urine, which causes kidney stones. It has been found that areas in the southern United States report higher instances of kidney stones and this may be due to higher temperatures mixed with inadequate fluid intake. This dehydration can promote kidney stones. Certain medications and some health conditions can also pose a risk for developing kidney stones. The symptoms of kidney stones include severe debilitating pain and vomiting. Typically, kidney stones will pass on their own and the treatment is for the management of symptoms. Increased fluid intake is recommended and an OTC medication such as ibuprofen may help with the pain as well. If the pain is accompanied by a fever, this is a situation that requires emergency medical intervention. Some stones may be located in an area that they are not able to pass out of without medical help. If a kidney stone causes a blockage that remains blocked for a prolonged period of time, there is a chance that the kidney may stop working. If not an emergency situation but a person feels that the pain is unbearable and does seek medical care, IV fluids are given along with stronger pain medication and anti-nausea medication. If the pain does not lessen and the vomiting does not get under control, the physician will admit the patient to the hospital for continued care.
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